I thought yoga was boring. Who would want to stretch for that long? Who would want to sit in poses? You’re not doing anything. Why wouldn’t you play tennis or volleyball? Those sports are more entertaining. Yoga to relieve stress? Boxing does the same thing and burns a thousand calories.
I had been to yoga classes in studios. Hatha yoga. Vinyasa yoga. Power yoga. Restorative yoga. Hot yoga. Though I came out refreshed after each class, I didn’t feel connected to the yoga practice. I thought it was a nice respite from the strength conditioning, HIIT, and barre classes I attended, but nothing more.
In the classes, I felt like I was merely moving through the motions. The teachers moved fast. My neighbors followed along like an orchestra taking direction from their maestro. I would secretly peek over at my neighbor to see if I was doing the movements correctly.
It wasn’t until I found Yoga with Adriene in January 2020 that my perspective began to shift. Stressed out at work, I wanted to make a change. Though I had my prejudices about yoga, I decided to give it another try. A Yoga with Adriene video was the first video I found on YouTube. I was surprised at the intensity of the workout — it was hard.
My thighs burned. My shoulders worked more than they ever did before. My hands couldn't touch my feet.
But, I focused less on my body. I started to focus on my mind.
In the studio classes, my competitive spirit kicked in and I compared myself to others. I wanted to do the movements “perfectly” to gain the approval of the teacher. I desired a sculpted body that would be the envy of strangers. I was doing yoga for all the wrong reasons.
With Adriene it was different. Maybe it’s her infectious humor and wit. Maybe it’s Benji’s downward-facing dog. Or maybe it’s her clear passion for bringing joy, peace, and love to the world through yoga.
My mindset changed.
It dawned on me — yoga is not only a physical practice, it’s a spiritual practice. A lightbulb turned on in my mind, illuminating the crevices of my soul. Yoga isn’t a workout; it’s a moving meditation.
“The original context of yoga was spiritual development practices to train the body and mind to self observe and become aware of their own nature. The purposes of yoga were to cultivate discernment, awareness, self-regulation and higher consciousness in the individual.” — David Surrenda
Yoga is a great workout. Studies show that yoga not only reduces stress, anxiety, fatigue, and depression, but also inflammation, blood pressure, cholesterol, heart disease risks, chronic pain, sleep disturbances, breathing issues, headache frequency & intensity, and eating disorder symptoms.
But yoga is so much more — it strengthens your mind. The way you show up on the mat is often the way you show up in life. How do you react when you’re frustrated? How do you act when you are upset? The mat is a mirror, allowing you to see your negative thoughts.
In my daily life, I find myself repeating Adriene’s words of wisdom to myself. Adriene’s encouraging words replaced my negative inner voice.
Hopefully, these words will encourage you too.
“Find what feels good.”
Gone are the days that you contort and force your body into positions that don’t feel good. You don’t need to muscle through your twist. You don’t need to make your feet touch the ground during your downward dog. You don’t need to strain your back so that you can get into a pose.
Meet yourself where you are today. You don’t need to do something because you see others doing it. If something is not aligned with you, causes you pain, or creates negativity, you don’t need to do it.
You are not living someone else's life, you are living your own. Don’t let anyone be the driver of your life, with you slouching in the backseat. Be comfortable being you.
A question to ask yourself: When do I feel my best?
“Move from a place of connect.”
We often go through the motions. We move through life on automatic. How many times have you driven your car and the next thing you know you’re home?
Current scientific research says that 95% of brain activity is unconscious, including habits and patterns, automatic body function, creativity, emotions, personality, beliefs and values, cognitive biases, and long-term memory. Additionally, 40% of behavior is habitual.
If we are living life on a subconscious level, we better make sure that our subconscious and habits serve us. We need to bring more consciousness into our lives to actively change our patterns. Engaging in a practice like yoga will aid us in making these changes by connecting our minds to our bodies.
A question to ask yourself: What daily practice allows me to feel fully present and connected to my mind and body?
“Move as you love yourself.”
Imagine the opposite — you go through life hating yourself. What does that look like? You constantly criticize yourself. You ignore your own needs. You shame yourself. You don’t accept positivity in your life.
We can all agree this is not an optimal state, but it is a common state. What life do you want to live, though?
A life where you accept all parts of yourself. A life where you feel worthy. A life where you feel enough.
Love radiates from within you. Now let love course through your veins and help guide your movements.
A question to ask yourself: What is one way I can be kind to myself today?
“Inhale lots of love in. Exhale lots of love out.”
Take a second to pause. Inhale the beauty of life and exhale the beauty of life.
How can we expect to make the world a better place without receiving and giving love?
We must work on receiving love. Take the compliment. Accept the gift. Bask in the attention. Pamper yourself. Communicate your needs. You deserve love.
It’s also important that we work on giving love.
Adriene says, “The awesome in me bows to the awesome in you.”
Take the time to recognize the awesomeness in those around you. It takes a second to compliment someone, but that compliment can brighten someone’s whole day. When we take the time to appreciate others, we open the doorway for others to appreciate us.
A question to ask yourself: How can I show my deep appreciation for myself and my loved ones?
“Connect with your center.”
Your center gives you balance. A weak core can undermine the motions that are part of your everyday life, such as walking, bending, turning, dressing, and bathing. You can improve your balance by strengthening your core.
When you practice balancing poses in yoga, your core is working on overdrive. I’m always curious about where my thoughts go whenever I do balancing poses because it shows me how I respond to adversity in my life.
I used to think: This is hard; I don’t want to fall (i.e., I don’t want to fail); I suck at this. But Adriene kindly reminds me, as if she’s reading my mind: “Don’t worry. The ground will catch you.”
It’s okay to make mistakes. It’s okay to not be perfect. It’s okay if you don’t know how to do something today or if you never learn how to do it. Honor where you are today.
A question to ask yourself: When life throws you a curveball, how do you center yourself?
“I can and I will.”
I picked up this one yesterday when Adriene said this during a plank. As she said this, I couldn’t help but whisper, YES, to myself.
The funny thing about sticking to a habit is that the more that you do it, the more that you prove to yourself that you can do it. This might seem like a silly statement. Like I’m saying x=x. That is what I’m saying.
Telling yourself that you are capable of doing something and then actually doing it every day makes you trust yourself more. You are a person of your word.
I started small. I said, no matter what I will do at least 5 minutes of yoga every day. Doing something small consistently will help you build trust in yourself. You will know that what you set your mind to, you can actually accomplish.
A question to ask yourself: What is something small that I can do every day to reach my goals?
“Take what you need. Leave what you don’t.”
Adriene, although a goddess, does not lord over you and expect you to do everything that she does. If you want to do a completely different yoga practice while watching her video, that’s absolutely acceptable. She encourages you to take what is useful for you, and let go of anything that is not helpful.
We need to practice letting go. Letting go of the things that do not serve us. Letting go of the unhelpful stories we tell ourselves. Letting go of the pain from the past.
Take the lesson. Leave the struggle.
A question to ask yourself: What lesson do I need to learn from my past and what accompanying pain do I need to let go of?
If you only agreed with one thing here, that’s good. Take what you need, leave what you don’t. Adriene also says,
“Notice how you feel.”
Trust your gut. Trust yourself. You know yourself best.
Who knew a spunky woman from Austin, Texas on YouTube would’ve taught me all of that? I’ve learned so much about myself on the mat with Adriene.
I’ve practiced yoga for 204 consecutive days so far and I never plan to stop.
Here’s to 365 more days with Adriene and Benji. Cheers!